Cycling Through 2010

I logged a lot of miles and time in the saddle this year. While most of my time is spent on the roads and trails of the south island, we do travel quite a bit and 2010 was no exception. What was an exception is how many cool rides I did away from home, as most trips saw me lugging my bike around with me in preparation for Ironman Arizona. Today I'm scrolling through my memory and recanting some favourite rides of the year away from home.

Coachella Valley, CA - Box Canyon Road. This will go down as one my favourite riding routes of all time. Kiki and I started in Mecca and right away were immersed in the fragrance of blooming grapefruits! Wonderful, not to mention the huge grapefruits on the trees... oh how I wanted to stuff my jersey pockets full! Box Canyon had no car traffic and amazing scenery, slot canyons heading off in every direction, and a gradual climb. We chatted as Jason leapfrogged us in the van, carrying Tana and Humu. Jason and I switched at the end of the road, and he got to ride through Joshua Tree National Park. Incredible ride and fantastic day... can't wait to do that one again.

Chatting our way up Box Canyon Road.

Also in Palm Springs, the climb up highway 74 - I brought up the rear on that one, with Jason leading the pack and Kiki chasing. Then there's Dillon Road, a flat, windy desert ride that served as my first long ride and first bonk of the year. The rides got longer from there, and the bonks got fewer.

Somewhere up Highway 74, looking down on Palm Springs.
Jason took this, I don't think I got this far up.

Beeline highway - Tempe AZ. How many times did I ride this? One loop in March when Jason and I went for a reconnaissance mission. One loop four days before Ironman Arizona. Half a loop the day before. Three loops during the race... this stretch of road will be forever seared in my memory now! It's a nice road for riding, as there is new pavement and a wide shoulder. A lot of traffic, but at least the big shoulder and rumble strips gives some of a buffer. It's somewhat scenic, especially for those of us from the lush temperate rainforest of coastal BC - it's not often we ride amongst desert scrub and saguaro cactus. I'll see you again someday, Beeline highway, I'll see you again...

Desertscape along the Beeline.

Whistler trails. OK, that seems more like home since we go there somewhat frequently, but it's over on the mainland so I'm throwing it on the list. I didn't actually spend as much time on the trails this year as I would have liked, blame that on all the training on the road. But the trails there are like nowhere else, a little piece of paradise surrounded by wood and rock. I have a routine when up there: the first trail I ride is up Peaches and Regalia in Lost Lake Park, then branch out from there. It's my own personal little welcome back to Whistler when I'm on that trail.

Whistler is one of the few places I enjoy riding bridges.
(Mystery photo credit - I found it online.)

Dawson Saddle, CA. Umm... so it wasn't ME riding... We were there for the Tour of California and didn't have our bikes with us. But I'd definitely like to ride it, and chasing the tour for the weekend was a highlight of 2010.

Lead group passing us by on Dawson Saddle.

Windsor, CA. We went down for Vineman, and not only is the bike course beautiful, so is the surrounding area. Tim and I went out for a ride before the race, and then of course race day I soaked in the Russian River valley, Dry Creek, Chalk Hill... gorgeous vineyards, rolling hills, postcard perfect!

Who wouldn't want to ride through scenery like this?

Coeur D'Alene, ID. I went for a spin on the trail along the lake early one August morning. I was surprised to see so many other riders and runners out there for how early it was; pedaling through town to the trailhead was a lonely affair as most of the town seemed still asleep. Lake Coeur D'Alene is deceptively large, but nestled in a little valley with lovely cottages tucked into the trees.

Lake Coeur D'Alene.

Leadville, CO. I can't say it was a "favourite" ride, as no one there seemed to get the memo that riding is so much more enjoyable when there's actually air! I rode the Mineral Trail, which gradually climbed over the town to top out at 10,600 feet. Pretty high for this sea level girl!

Vail Pass, CO. Another ride without the appropriate amount of oxygen. After about four days at altitude at that point, I was hitting my limit and fatigue level, and this probably would go in the record books as the most miserable (but don't get me wrong, beautiful scenery) ride and the biggest bonk of the year. The second time up Vail Pass during the ride (yes, second!), I had to keep telling myself not to cry because that would only cause me to go even slower - if that was even possible at that point! Coach Kiki had to do some major damage control with my psyche after that one.

My only company up Vail Pass.

Sea to Sky highway, BC. This was the Whistler Gran Fondo, and again, not far from home but a route I'd always wanted to ride. Traffic had always been the factor that prevented me, so I was quick to sign up when the event was announced. Beautiful scenery, flawless organization, tough climbs and fun descents. Can't wait until next year!

Sea to Sky highway

Cumberland to Campbell River, BC. Back on the island, but away from home because it's the north island. Not a particularly scenic ride, but memorable for a few reasons. Tim had suggested it; he thought it would be great IM training and he was right. Memorable because of how hard it was raining and how hard the wind was blowing. Memorable because I spent six hours in the saddle and felt great at the end - at that point I knew I had done what I needed to do for a good ride in Tempe on race day. Memorable because I got a huge staple in my tire and didn't flat - tubeless road, you rule!

Today's highway cam of the Inland Island Highway.
To complete my ride, add a downpour and violent wind!

There's my 2010 away from home ride round-up. What a fantastic year I've had; I don't think I can top that in 2011!

Celebrity Guest Blogger: Jason

So... I'm turning over the reins for this post to Jason. He went on what he describes as "epic" (I think "a bit foolish - especially for this time of year - and definitely lucky") stand-up paddleboarding adventure today. Here is his tale.

What's SUP, Cowichan?

Pete had this idea that if the water levels were high enough we could paddle from Somenos Lake (Forest Museum) all the way to Cowichan Bay using the Cowichan River tributary system. Today was not raining which meant that it was the day to go. We set out at about 12:30 from the Somenos Lake boat launch next to the Forest Museum. I found a good use for my old Desoto two-piece wetsuit as the only way Alison wanted me to go was to be as safe as I could. Pete arrived wetsuitless as he had some challenges putting his new X-Terra suit on. The zipper goes on the back, Pete.

Boards unloaded and ready to paddle.

We paddled across Somenos Lake on calm waters as a warm up to the tributary system. The water level was really high as we entered into Somenos Creek. We cruised by a beaver dam but couldn't find him. He was probably in Cumberland building more trails for Kirsty to enjoy. Lots of oak trees were lining the creek. We rode under some bridges on our bellies so that we didn't have to portage any road crossings. All went well up to the Tzouhalem Road bridge, where a low hanging pipe meant we had to exit and cross with our boards. We had a nice audience as we were attracting attention with our journey.

All was well until we hit the Cowichan River. See Alison's post below for photos of what the river is like this time of year. Yes, this is the same river that we now had to navigate on our SUPs. Pete went first and made it across to slower waters. I followed and bailed to an audience of spectators who had stopped to watch us. I couldn't swim with my board and paddle across the river so had to ride out some rapids hanging on for dear life. My Dirty Dog sunglasses didn't make it.

Back up, we were absolutely flying on our boards in the Cowichan River towards the ocean when we came upon a log jam blocking the entire river. Holy crap, we had to get to shore against the currents FAST or end up as permanent members of the log jam. We managed to navigate our way through the high waters to the shore, but not before Pete went for an unwilling swim. We climbed out with our boards at the Butter Church in the Cowichan Tribes Reserve and made our way down the road about 500m to set in again.

Portage at the Butter Church

The next section of river was truly spectacular for wildlife viewing. We saw salmon under our boards, bald eagles (both juvenile and mature), miscellaneous sea birds, and herons. When we hit the river estuary everything slowed down and I knew that we had made it. As we paddled out all of these heads popped up all around us. There were at least 75 harbour seals surrounding us for a look. So cool.

Cowichan Bay.

The last part of our journey was across Cowichan Bay. A California sea lion that was living on the breakwater barked loudly to welcome our arrival. We loaded up the boards, shuttled back to Pete's car and were finished.

My board took a bit of a beating with some huge dings out of the side. All in all I would not recommend this "3 hour tour" to anyone. It was not safe at all in the winter. Again, have you seen the pictures in the previous post? This is why Alison didn't come; someone needed to be home to call 911.

Merry Christmas!

Our small family (Jason, Humu and I) have a christmas tradition - that is to get outside at some point on December 25. After lounging around the house all morning, we finally got our butts in gear and went for a hike. We chose to go down by the Cowichan River rather than the usual woods behind our house.

Jason and Humu

What is normally a lovely trail in the summer had become almost completely waterlogged. We've had a tonne of rain over the past couple of weeks, and last month we had some snow in the mountains which is all melting now that it's warmed up again. The river was really high and running fast, and had engulfed the trail in a few spots. We should have chosen our rubber boots instead of trail runners, as I came home with very soggy feet.

The creek behind me is normally a meandering little trickle...

Another shot of Holt Creek in its winter state

The Cowichan River in the summer has some great swimming beaches, and it's fun to go tubing downstream. This time of year, not so much:

There's only an 11% chance of a white christmas here on the island. So we enjoy our green christmas as it gives us lots of chances to enjoy outdoor activities, like cycling, trail running, and hiking, all year around. If we really want snow, we can make the 2-hour drive up-island to the alpine for a ski.

I'm dreaming of a green christmas...

Humu says Merry Christmas to all the dogs out there - Marty,
Tana, Shadow, Piper, Gracie, Fia, Fergus,
Angus, Storm, Maia, Abby, Swifty, and all her other dog friends! Woof!


Last night we stayed up late to watch the eclipse. It was a particularly special one, not only because it was a complete lunar eclipse, but also because that has not occurred on the winter solstice for 372 years. Even though the complete eclipse was scheduled for just after 11:30pm, that's still kind of on the late side for us. So, we PVR'd the movie Elf earlier in the day and sat down at about 9 to watch it so we could stay up.

It was a fairly cloudy night, so we had to content ourselves with watching the beginning of the eclipse online. The clouds parted at just past 11, so we scurried outside and stood on the street with a perfect view of the moon disappearing. We thought it would be funny to sing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" while we were standing there. I wonder what the neighbours thought about that.

The moon is supposed to be right in the center of this picture.

The moment is disappeared behind the shadow of our planet.

We were able to watch some of its reemergence before the clouds took over again and we headed back inside.

Obviously up past Jason's bedtime.

Deck the Halls

It's now officially the holiday season as I'm off work for two weeks. Ahhhh! We bought our christmas tree the other day and had our traditional decorating party. A party of Jason, Humu and I, some wine, christmas music, and all our favourite ornaments.

Santa Humu helping out.

An important tradition in our small family is that every time we travel, we get an ornament for our tree. The idea is that as the years go by, our tree will be full of memories and good times and places we've been. It's always a treat to open the box of ornaments each year and reminisce about our past experiences.

We seem to go to Disneyland (and Disney World) frequently...

If they're not travel or racing-related, chances are
they are Star Wars ornaments.

Homemade ornaments are always special. This one
was made by a friend's daughter when she was about 5.

The first ornament Jason and I bought together
was our Santa tree-topper.

Stockings hung, waiting for jolly
old Saint Nick to fill them up. Humu's too!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to all!


I am starting P90X tomorrow, which is a 90-day weights workout that is supposedly pretty tough. Before starting, you take their fitness test, which I did today. I passed, of course, but it got me thinking about what fitness really is.

In biology, fitness has a very specific definition and refers to an individual's ability to survive and reproduce, therefore passing on its genes to the next generation. Genetically speaking, natural selection is the process by which more "fit" alleles (the DNA sequence of a particular gene) become more common in a population due to the increased survival of these "fit" individuals. This is the central and unifying theory in biology, and no matter what field of biology you study, it really all boils down to Darwin's (and Wallace's) concept of "survival of the fittest". However, that is not really the type of fitness we are talking about here, although you can certainly draw links between what we think of in daily life as fitness, and the propagation of our species. But simply put, in every day parlance, fitness merely means suitability.

In that case, the average North American is actually very fit; as the inactive, fast-food eating beings we have become are certainly well suited for our lives of complacently watching tv from our sofa all evening. But again, that's not the kind of fitness I'm really talking about either. I am thinking more specifically about what it means to be "physically fit".

Physical fitness should combine health, well-being, and suitability for a specific task related to an exercise or sport. This is what got me thinking. A mere three weeks ago I finished an Ironman, something I would dare say (with no ego intended) that most people are not fit to do. Yet, I know plenty of people that I would consider much fitter than I am. In taking the P90X fitness test, there were tasks I was really fit for, and others I just squeaked by in terms of their suggested minimum requirements.

What this means, really, is that there is no general state of physical fitness, but is all specific to a certain sport. So while I'm fit enough to do a 4 km swim, 180 km bike ride, and 42 km run, I am not fit enough to do pull-ups. Hmm. The other question is then, when is anybody fit enough? Is there even a "fit enough"? Will I ever be content with a level of fitness, or do we all keep pushing and finding new things to challenge our current state of fitness?

My challenge for the next 90 days is to see how strong I can get on this program, hence increasing my fitness. Although this surely will decrease my fitness in terms of my ability to finish an Ironman, so then am I less fit?

Circular arguments are annoying, sorry about that! Do I have a point to this post? Not really, just some random thoughts. Perhaps my point is that we all need to find something to motivate and challenge us. I'm looking ahead to a new year, and new challenges, and plotting my path there.

Tonight, I Ran

I went for a run tonight. First time since IMAZ. I can't believe it has only been two and a half weeks since that race, as it seems a lifetime ago. The 2.5 weeks preceding the race flashed by in a blur, so why has the 2.5 weeks since then moved at a pace on par with glaciers retreating? (before climate change of course). I feel like these last few weeks should be given their own spot on the geological time scale.

I haven't done anything since Ironman. I've taken the dog out for walks in the woods, but nothing that I would consider actual "training" or "exercise". The break has been nice, but it's time to get moving again. Tonight my choices were the pre-P90X (my winter project) fit test, or a run. The fit test seemed like more effort than I really cared for at the moment, but the weather was not conducive to running. So I hemmed-and-hawed for about an hour. I was leaning towards the run, but it was cold, windy, and rainy outside. Rainy doesn't quite sum it up, more like torrential downpour. I opened the door to check the weather, and could literally hear the meows and woofs as the cats and dogs fell from the sky.

Still, I was eyeing my winter running clothes that I hadn't yet worn this year, and decided that the run would win. I added a jacket, hat (which I almost never wear running as for some reason my head get claustrophobic and much prefers a visor), and gloves. I'll admit the gloves may have been a touch overkill, but oh how I like toasty digits. I didn't wear a watch or my ipod. It didn't matter how long I was running for, or where I was going, or fast (read: slow) I was moving. This wasn't going in the training log.

I stepped out the door and simply ran. No thought to pacing, training, no watch to look at, nothing on my mind at all. No visualization, no cares. (Incidentally, why did I spend so much training time visualizing the last 2 km of the race? They were easy. It was kilometers 30-40 that were the difficult part. I'll have to remember that for 2012. Umm. Yes, I said it, I will be toeing the line back in Tempe in 2012.) I wasn't even thinking about how hard it was raining, in fact I didn't even think it was that bad until I got home and Jason laughed at how soaked I was.

Near the end of my run, a neighbour down the road was standing on his porch, smoking. As I went by, he called out "nice night for a jog" like I was the crazy one. But you know what, any night is a nice night for a run. Wet or dry, hot or cold, what does it really matter? And now that I'm done my run, I think it's a nice night to make cookies and watch tv on the couch.

I Miss My Van :(

I used to have this very cool van, and lately I've been really missing it. It was a 2000 VW camper van, by Winnebago so the camping stuff was super-deluxe and totally awesome. Jason, Humu and I really loved the van, but we had to sell it. For reasons of, well... it turns out because I just can't have everything I want, all the time. Boo. On the plus side, I mostly get what I want, most of the time. Which is pretty good if you ask me; we do live a fair life of luxury compared to most of the world.

My (former) super-awesome van... gone to a really
good home with a loving family at least.

Anyway, back to my sob story of missing the van. I've been making a list of all the things I'd like to do in 2011. Seattle to Portland ride. Whistler Gran Fondo. Alcatraz swim. Bend Dirt Camp. Hike Mt. St. Helens. Visit a friend in the BC interior. Visit a friend in Santa Cruz. Surfing at Long Beach. Lake Stevens 70.3. Spectate IMC. Concert at the Gorge Ampitheater. The list goes on and on... it's my "long list" and of course not everything will make the cut. The problem is, for pretty much all of these items on my list, the van would be the perfect place to stay and facilitate me being able to do most of them. Yeah, I can drive and stay in hotels, but of course then my list gets shorter (see the above about not being able have everything I want, all of the time).

So I miss my van. I could really use it for 2011. I suppose I could say that for any year. I do like my non-existent vehicle repair bills, my inexpensive gas bills, the ease of not driving a behemoth around town, and the fact that my current vehicle is "partial zero emissions". But my car doesn't quite have the same cachet and utility the van had. It was always my fantasy to have enough resources to park the van so I wouldn't have to drive it every day, and have a run-about to get around with on a daily basis. But again, back to the realization that I can't have everything, all the time.

I listen to people talk about winning the lottery, and the millions they'd love to win to change their lives. I've always thought I don't need millions, perhaps just a couple hundred grand to pay off the mortgage, car loan, student loan - that would equate to some serious freedom. Today am I thinking that a lottery prize of about 30 grand would be enough. Just enough to get my van back. Does anyone out there have a spare $30,000 you're not using, and want to invest in some serious happiness? Limitless happiness really, and what better investment is there? :)